Buffalo graduate Danielle Norton to compete in Miss Minnesota U.S. International Pageant,
and the vision she brings
By Miriam Orr
For many, beauty pageants are all about the gowns and clothes, a chance to perform talent before thousands of observers, answer difficult questions under pressure, and a chance to win funding or scholarships to help fulfill their dreams.
Women across the world gather together to compete against one another for the chance to represent their community and society to the world, in a way that is both glamorous and challenging.
For Danielle Norton, however, beauty pageants present a platform for a message she is more than ready to share.
A girl and her dream
Danielle Norton is a Buffalo graduate, and currently enrolled at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, where she is pursuing a degree in Reconciliation Studies. Right now, she is in the process of transferring to Bethel University, where she will continue her degree and also begin considering adding Communications as a second major.
Norton is all about problem solving, and helping individuals solve conflict and bridge gaps between issues. Whether those issues are governmental, educational, or legal, a Reconciliation Studies degree will put Norton right in the middle of areas where communication is challenged and, in many cases broken.
While Reconciliation Studies is her major of choice, Norton has a vision for an area of society that is in dire need of intervention. Her vision of passion is elderly care, and bridging the gap that currently resides in the area of caring for the social engagement of the elderly.
"It is a huge issue that not a lot of people are aware of," Norton explained. "I've worked in the geriatric field for awhile, and I've seen a lot of depression in residents. There's very few visitors or friends or families that come in to talk with them and visit. It is truly heartbreaking. These people have lives and stories and tales that they have lived. They matter."
Her platform is called "Friends Through the Decades," where she believes that community members should rally around the elderly and bring interaction to them. Norton's campaign flier states, "I am committed to inspiring my generation to become engaged in the elder generation."
What better way is there to promote such a platform of inspiration than to compete in a beauty pageant?
With her vision and directed passion, Norton pursued her first pageant by enrolling in the Miss Buffalo pageant in June 2016 during Buffalo Days.
"I was drawn to this program because it's really community-based, and is about serving others, and that's something I'm all for." Norton explained. "It just shouts self-sacrifice and service."
She came to the program after her sister competed but was not crowned. After that, Norton really began to embrace the idea of the pageant process, and her mindset began to change as she explored investigating the role and its duties.
"It really presents the opportunity to put others before myself in the city that I grew up in," she said. "That is really special and not an opportunity many get to seize."
Norton was crowned the 2016 Miss Buffalo, and participated in the Minneapolis Aquatennial Ambassador organization, where she would go on to represent Buffalo to the surrounding communities and serve others.
"The highlights of the reign were definitely the parades, because those are always so fun!" Norton commented. "But, my favorite part was going to Cambridge, Minn., where we visited the nursing homes with other ambassadors across the state. Interacting with residents as ambassador royalty, and also as a member of the younger generation, was truly inspiring and touched me deeply."
Norton explained that the Miss Buffalo pageant is about poise, class, and an attitude of service. The clothes, gowns, and beauty aspect of it is only secondary, at least in her mind. While they are fun components of the experience, they aren't at the forefront of the position.
"I was really speechless when I was crowned," Norton shared. "I couldn't stop crying. It was so overwhelming and I was just so humbled, because I didn't think I'd win. I thought 'Wow, they really picked me!"
Now even more inspirated and driven to pursue elder care, Norton submitted an application for the Miss Minnesota U.S. International Pageant, where she will compete for the Miss Minnesota position in the competition.
Of the pageant, Norton stated, "This pageant will promote platforms on a national level, not just communal. It focuses on characteristics like public speaking, communication, leadership, and respectability."
Norton stated that this pageant really gets down to the questions of what contestants are going to do to promote their platform, and their planning and organizational skills.
For Norton, her plan for her platform is to branch out through social media and really create a following of individuals, through ice-bucket challenges and the like.
"It's a lot like that ice-bucket challenge they did awhile ago for ACL research," she said. "Something along those lines, that's fun and engaging and brings awareness to the program."
She also wants to expound on her website to really get the ball rolling with her vision.
Norton is partnered with Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly's Minneapolis/St. Paul chapter, and would also like to promote them during her campaign, as she is sponsored by the organization and working towards bridging the social interaction gap between today's generation and the generations of yesteryear. She has been working with them since January of this year.
Other sponsor's of Norton's platform are: Lillians, Park View Care Center, and Rose Garden State.
Preparation for this event is challenging, as Norton has no idea how many contestants she will be competing against.
"I've really been working on my interviewing skills and walking in five inch heels," she explained. "It's a lot of working with pageant coordinators and hair and makeup to make sure everything is ready to go and the looks are established. This all requires meeting with your sponsors and expounding on your platform and your vision to really get things moving."
She stated that she is most nervous for the interview, and to prepare she is working with coordinators in a "mock-trial" type of practice, where she has the added benefit of working with those who have judged this competition in the past.
"It's a rare benefit to have input from professionals who have actually judged this competition and crowned girls," Norton explained.
As for what she is most excited about, Norton is thrilled to be able to throw her platform "out there" nationally, and really shed light on an issue that she fully supports.
"Selfless service is something I am really passionate about, and this is just an awesome way to get me to that point of where I can do this in a big way. Not only that, the entire 'glam' experience is just so much fun, too!"
Norton's competition will be April 28, in St. Paul. From this experience, she hopes to gain added maturity, communication skills, and leadership characterstics, as well as helping others and seeing progress towards the issue of elderly social interaction.
Currently, Norton volunteers at Park Side Care Center in Buffalo, and has done so for four years.
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